The A380 may have had a much too premature exit from many fleets, its demise sped up by the unfolding pandemic. Meanwhile, more and more carriers are bringing the type back out of long-term storage, preparing for a potential speedy ramp-up of operations driven by pent-up demand. Let’s take a look back at when airlines first took delivery of their Giants of the Sky.
In order of appearance – the first five
Airbus A380 launch customer Singapore Airlines took delivery of the first of what was to be a total of 24 A380s on October 15th, 2007. The inaugural revenue service with the aircraft, registered as 9V-SKA, took place ten days later on October 25th. It operated flight SQ380 between Singapore and Sydney. Seats were sold through a charity auction, with prices ranging from $560 to $100,380.
9V-SKA was also the first A380 to leave Singapore Airlines’ fleet in June 2017. Ownership has been transitioned to the Dr Peters Group, and the aircraft is stored at Tarbes Lourdes in France. The only A380 to, thus far, make it successfully onto the second-hand market left Singapore for Hi Fly Malta in 2018.
However, after an attempt at flying cargo through a preighter conversion, the aircraft was withdrawn from use in December 2020 and is currently stored along with its former stablemate in Tarbes. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has begun transferring some of its remaining 12 A380s out of long-term storage.
Now set to receive its final A380 in November this year, the occasion will mark the end to a 13-year history of double-decker aircraft arriving in Dubai. The airline, which has almost become synonymous with the Giant of the Skies – and most certainly its greatest proponent – took delivery of its very first on July 28th, 2008.
Over the years, there has been a steady stream of deliveries of A380s to Emirates. Today, the carrier has 119 in its fleet. It still expects the delivery of another three – all to be fitted with the airline’s much-lauded premium economy cabin. Furthermore, it retired one in February 2020, bringing the total of A380s that Emirates will have operated to 123.
The Australian flag carrier took delivery of its first A380 on September 19th, 2008. When the aircraft, registered as VH-OQA, was officially handed over at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, the evening commenced with the words ‘tonight the old world meets the new world’.
The optimistic spirit may have been somewhat overrated. However, Qantas is one of the few carriers to say that it will bring back half of its remaining ten A380s by next year and the other half by 2024. In a recent interview with CNN, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that the aircraft was the ‘perfect vehicle’ to meet the pent-up travel demand after what will most likely be close to two years of isolation for the continent.
“We have limited slots at [London] Heathrow; the A380 helps us meet the demand at Heathrow because of its size. And the same to LA. There’s a scheduling window; all of our flights leave LA between 10:00 and midnight because of the curfew in Sydney… So you can’t add really frequency, so you might as well have a big aircraft that works,” Mr Joyce told the news outlet.
Air France took the first out of ten A380s in October 2009 as the first European carrier to welcome the type. The final arrived in June 2014, making it all the sadder when the airline decided to retire its entire fleet of Giants last year, with some as young as only six years old.
The airline’s first revenue flight with the aircraft took place on November 23rd. Meanwhile, the last commercial flight was on March 23rd, operating AF995 from Johannesburg to Paris.
The final flight with passengers operated as AFA380 by F-HPJH as a scenic tour of France. Carrying airline staff that had worked on the type, along with management, it took off from CDG and lasted for two hours and 22 minutes on June 26th last year.
Lufthansa has, just as Air France, waved goodbye to all of its A380s. The first out of 12 arrived in Frankfurt on May 19th, 2010, having made the short trip from Airbus A380 Final Assembly Line in Toulouse via the manufacturer’s paintshop in Hamburg.
Sadly, the airline’s CEO Carsten Spohr has made it clear that the massive aircraft does not fit with Lufthansa’s future plans. As such, the departure of the carrier’s final A380 from Frankfurt for Teruel in Spain earlier this month may have been the final Lufthansa-liveried double-decker flight.
2011 to 2013
Korean Air took delivery of its first A380 on May 24th, 2011. The carrier opted for an extra spacious layout for its two-storied quadjets, accommodating only 407 passengers in a three-class layout. The airline has taken a total of ten A380s, with the final arriving in July 2014. However, the carrier has laid out plans to retire the type within the next five years.
China Southern Airlines
China Southern received its first A380 on October 14th, 2011, as the first and only Chinese super jumbo operator. It is also one of the smallest A380 customers, having taken delivery of only five of the type. The last and final one was delivered in February 2013. While the airline is uncertain about the A380’s future, it recently announced the type’s return to its Guangzhou to Syndey service.
Malaysia Airlines took its first Giant of the Skies on May 29th, 2012. The other five followed in quick succession, with the sixth rounding out the fleet in March 2013 – the 100th Airbus A380 ever to be built. All of the aircraft were recently put up for sale, advertised via the company’s social media channels.
Thai Airways’ first A380 arrived with the carrier on September 27th, 2012. Just as Malaysia, the airline has offered customers the chance to place bids on some of its superjumbos as it attempts a restructuring following last year’s unprecedented and ongoing crisis. Meanwhile, reports suggest the airline will retire all six of the aircraft type.
The first BA-liveried A380 was delivered on July 4th, 2013. BA has since taken delivery of another 11 of the type, with the final arriving a little over five years ago. While there has been much speculation about the A380’s future with the airline, BA recently began taking them out of long-term storage in Spain. Its very first addition, G-XLEA, flew to Manila in the Philippines late last week for heavy maintenance.
The final four
South Korean Asiana has six A380s in its fleet. The first was delivered on May 26th, 2014. The last arrived in December 2016, making the fleet’s average age at the time of writing exactly 6.6 years. If the merger between Korean Air and Asiana goes through, this will create the world’s second-largest fleet of the superjumbo.
Qatar Airways recently confirmed the impairment of all of its ten A380s. The first of these was delivered on September 17th, 2014. While the carrier’s CEO Mr Akbar Al Baker has been openly critical of the type, he has now hinted that at least half of Qatar’s A380 fleet could, potentially, return to the skies.
Etihad received its first A380 on December 16th, 2014. Unlike its co-flag carrier Emirates, it boasted a modest fleet of ten aircraft, with the final being delivered in May 2017. The entire contingent were recently confirmed as retired, with the youngest a mere three years old at the time of exiting the fleet.
All Nippon Airways
The final new customer for the A380, ANA, is also the smallest. The Japanese carrier owns a fleet of only three superjumbos, painted in colorful liveries dedicated to routes they serve. Under normal circumstances intended to operate services to Hawaii, the first arrived on March 14th, 2019.
How many A380s have you flown on? Leave a comment below and let us know.